The U.S. Air Force has confirmed that a KC-46A Pegasus aerial-refueling aircraft out of McConnell completed the airframe’s first operational refueling May 7, 2019.
While in formation with a KC-10 Extender from Travis Air Force Base, the KC-46 offloaded 30,000 pounds of fuel to four F-16 Fighting Falcons on their way to an exercise at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, according to a news release put out by U.S. Air Forces.
“It felt great to use all of our training, preparation and prior experience on legacy tankers to execute an operational mission with the KC-46,” said Tech. Sgt. Andy Keiser, 344th Air Refueling Squadron instructor boom operator. “We put a lot of preparation in to familiarization and this shows that the KC-46 is capable of operational refueling.”
The 344th Air Refueling Squadron, and their reserve partners the 924th ARS, have spent the last few months in a Familiarization Period in order to study and execute the basic capabilities of the aircraft in preparation for Initial Operational Test and Evaluation.
“Today’s mission continues to showcase the incredible familiarization training our Air-Refueling professionals are getting both with the KC-10 and F-16’s,” said Col. Josh Olson, 22nd Air Refueling Wing commander. “We are getting very positive feedback from our receiver aircraft on the KC-46 and are excited as we move into the next phase of KC-46 operational test and evaluation.”
The KC-46A is a multirole tanker that can refuel all allied and coalition military aircraft compatible with international aerial refueling procedures and can carry passengers, cargo and patients.
The KC-46A will eventually replace the U.S. Air Force’s aging fleet of KC-135 Stratotankers which have been the backbone of the refueling fleet for more than 50 years. The KC-46A will provide more refueling capability, an increased capacity for cargo, and modern aeromedical evacuation capabilities.
The KC-46A is expected to provide aerial refueling to Air Force, joint and partner nation aircraft. McConnell will receive 18 tankers in the first round of deliveries and will end up with a fleet of 34.